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Diversifying State Supreme Courts


  • Greg Goelzhauser

  • I am grateful to Matt Golder, Bob Jackson, Jeff Staton, and Atiya Stokes-Brown for helpful comments and suggestions. I also thank Mark S. Hurwitz and Drew Noble Lanier for sharing data on black and female attorneys in the states. Please address correspondence to: Greg Goelzhauser, Coastal Carolina University, 133 Chanticleer Drive, Conway, SC 29526; e-mail:


Why do some states diversify their supreme courts sooner than others? Using original data on the first black and female state supreme court justices, I contend that political and institutional pressures influence when states diversify their high courts. The results suggest that selection systems, institutions affecting turnover, and the appointment of political minorities to the United States Supreme Court are associated with states seating their first black and female justices. The findings have implications for our understanding of the political and institutional circumstances that promote judicial diversity.